Relative Pitch Ear Training
Relative Pitch is one of the core listening skills of music. The phrase can mean both a particular ability and a broad category of skills.
Any musician who's serious about ear training will make relative pitch a central part of their training plan.
What is relative pitch?
Your sense of relative pitch is what allows you to recognise notes in music based on the general musical context, i.e. the other notes being played. Unlike absolute pitch (or "perfect pitch") this doesn't mean identifying a note when it's played in isolation. Instead it means that you can hear the relationships between notes, and use that to understand what you're hearing.
Examples of relative pitch
Relative pitch powers abilities like:
- Playing tunes by ear
- Working out the chords to a song
- Improvising on your instrument based on what you hear in your head
- Sight-singing from sheet music
- Being able to hear music in your head when you see it written down
All of these skills rely on your ear being able to judge the differences in pitch between notes: the pitch of one note relative to another.
Relative Pitch Ear Training
Because this is such a central skill, we tend to use "relative pitch" to refer to a whole family of ear training topics. You can study each one, and they all benefit each other and enable real musical applications like those listed above.
Relative pitch is all about judging the distance in pitch between notes. We call these pitch distances "intervals" and you can learn to recognise each possible distance by ear. This "interval recognition" is probably the most effective way to develop your sense of relative pitch.
The natural progression from working on two notes at a time (intervals) is to practice ear training with three or more notes at once: a chord. Chord ear training also builds up your relative pitch skills and if you've done some interval ear training you'll find it easy to get started with chords.
Relative Pitch Ear Training Resources
"Learning Intervals" is the all-in-one guide to improving your relative pitch using intervals.
It teaches 3 different methods for learning interval recognition, which you can combine to create your own perfect approach. Full of tips, advice, and resources to help you develop your sense of relative pitch.
If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, check out our interval training app, RelativePitch. It starts from the basics and teaches you all the intervals of the octave in a fun and effective way.
It's been rated 4-stars or above in 95% of user reviews, and was chosen by Apple to be a featured app on the App Store.
The fundamental type of chord is the triad: a three-note chord which can be major, minor, diminished or augmented.
Learning to recognise the different kinds of triad is an excellent first step in becoming proficient with chords, and our Chordelia: Triad Tutor app makes it easy, fun and effective!
Learn how to improve your sense of pitch using ear training with the Pitch module of the Ear Expansion course.
Topics Related to Relative Pitch Ear Training
Learning to recognise intervals (two notes together) is generally the first step to improving your sense of relative pitch.
Once you've mastered two notes at once... try three! Chords are the natural next step in improving your relative pitch aural skills.